Decorum

“The perfect hostess will see to it that the works of male and female authors be properly separated on her bookshelves. Their proximity, unless they happen to be married, should not be tolerated.”

— Lady Gough, Etiquette, 1863

“No matter what the fashion may be, the gloves of a well-dressed woman are never so tight that her hands have the appearance of sausages.”

— Margery Wilson, The New Etiquette, 1947

“A beautiful eyelash is an important adjunct to the eye. The lashes may be lengthened by trimming them occasionally in childhood. Care should be taken that this trimming is done neatly and evenly, and especially that the points of the scissors do not penetrate the eye.”

— Eliza Bisbee Duffey, The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette, 1877

Stormy Weather

Take an ordinary magic square and imagine that the number in each cell denotes its altitude above some common underlying plane. And now suppose that it begins to rain, with an equal amount of water falling onto each cell. What happens? In the square at left, the water cascades from square 25 down to square 21, and thence down to 10, 7, 2, and into space; because there are no “lowlands” on this landscape, no water is retained. (Water flows orthogonally, not diagonally, and it pours freely over the edges of the square.)

By contrast, in the square on the right a “pond” forms that contains 69 cubic units of water — as it happens, the largest possible pond on a 5×5 square.

With the aid of computers, these imaginary landscapes can be “terraformed” into surprisingly detailed shapes. Craig Knecht, who proposed this area of study in 2007, created this 25×25 square in 2012:

Next year will mark the 500th anniversary of the famously fertile magic square in Albrecht Dürer’s 1514 engraving Melancholia — a fact that Knecht has commemorated in the shape of the ponds on the 14×14 square at right.

Squeak

squeak

On March 18, 2002, Zimbabwean farmer Terry Ford was murdered on his farm outside Harare, apparently by government-backed invaders.

When authorities arrived they found a 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier guarding the body. “Squeak,” described as Ford’s best friend, had accompanied his master when he tried to escape by breaking down a fence with his car. When this failed, the attackers had pulled Ford from the vehicle, beaten him, tied him to a tree, and shot him through the head.

“When Terry Ford’s battered body was found under a tree, the little terrier was still at his side,” said Meryl Harrison of Zimbabwe’s SPCA. “The dog would not leave the farmer’s body.”

At Ford’s funeral, Squeak followed the procession up the church aisle and sniffed the coffin, evidently confused, before retreating to the arms of Ford’s fiancee. He was finally adopted by a friend of the family.

Partial Credit

On his 36th birthday, feeling that his most fertile years were behind him, mathematician Abram Besicovitch said, “I have had four-fifths of my life.”

At age 59 he was elected to the Rouse Ball Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge.

When J.C. Burkill reminded him of his earlier remark, he said, “Numerator was correct.”

Black and White

johnson chess problem

By Richard Wright Johnson. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

“The Bender”

http://books.google.com/books?id=X640AQAAMAAJ

Scientific American examined a novel idea in 1854: a jointed ship whose fore and aft sections can rise and fall independently on the waves. The ship would then flex with each swell, and a chain extended between the masts could drive a paddlewheel amidships. “The hope is cherished that this Bender, whether in the form of a small boat for harbor use, or in a vessel of larger size, will demonstrate the practicability of using the wave power in moving against a head-wind.”

I don’t know how far they pursued the idea. A shipbuilder named George Steers declared himself “ready to undertake the construction of such a vessel for any parties that may apply to him.”

In a Word

inwit
n. reason, intellect, understanding

outwit
n. the faculty of observing the world

Finding Yourself

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mozart_magic_flute.jpg

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.

Choose any word in the first two lines, count its letters, and count forward that number of words. For example, if you choose STAR, which has four letters, you’d count ahead four words, beginning with HOW, to reach WHAT. Count the number of letters in that word and count ahead as before. Continue until you can’t go any further. You’ll always land on YOU in the last line.

See Finding Religion and The Kruskal Count.

Pandora’s Divorce

In June 1946, 44-year-old Fern Bowden filed for divorce from her husband James, charging him with “cruel and inhuman treatment” and asking $100 a month to support their two teenage daughters. James filed an answer denying the charges and accusing his wife of keeping company with other men while he had been in Alaska on war business.

In mid-July, James began working with a small trunk which he kept locked in the basement of their Oregon home. He refused to tell the family what it contained but warned them repeatedly not to try to open it; when the girls came upon their father working on it he shouted at them to get out. Only he and their mother, he said, had the padlock combination.

On July 27, alone at home, Fern opened the box. “The cellar of the Bowden residence was wrecked by the explosion,” reported the Associated Press. “Small pieces of flesh and bone found scattered throughout the shattered parts of the home have been identified by the police criminal laboratory as human.”

Detectives determined that the trunk had contained six sticks of dynamite rigged with tacks, wire, and a small battery.

James was charged with illegal possession of explosives and first-degree murder.

Weatherproof

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=GrIYAAAAEBAJ

In 1998 Tennessee inventor Thomas Bennington conceived a novel way to make a wind-resistant house: Mount a decommissioned airliner on a rotating pillar. “The design and configuration of the fuselage enables it to always point into the wind, thereby presenting the smallest cross-sectional area to the destructive wind forces.”

Bennington envisions the house contending successfully with thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. “Market forces have made certain types of commercial aircraft structures similar in cost per square foot to that of conventional ground-based dwellings. Such aircraft include Boeing 727s that have been removed from active service. Of course, the quality of the materials used in the fabrication of and the engineering associated with such aircraft are far superior than those seen in most wood-framed homes.”